By Elizabeth Gregory ’19
In May, 10 students from varying disciplines and ROTC branches traveled to Israel to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thanks to a generous grant from the Olmsted Foundation. The Olmsted Foundation directly supports the immersion of future United States military leaders in the culture and people of other countries to afford them the opportunity to see the world through a wider lens. This field study was entirely planned and executed by the students under the guidance of Norwich University’s Peace & War Center Director, Dr. Travis Morris. The purpose of this field study was not only to understand this conflict from the ground level, but also to gain analytical, planning, and logistical skills.
This field study included interviews with government officials, ambassadors, and leaders from non-governmental organizations, as well as people on the streets and those living in refugee camps. Some of the stories heard on this trip were extremely powerful, but it was important to separate the emotion from these testimonies to figure out the truths of the situation. We found that there is no simple or immediate solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Students came to realize that there is much more to the conflict than can be gleaned from reports and books. Oftentimes there are many more elements to a problem than we initially see, and finding a solution takes more than the negotiation of numbers. Each side has vastly different viewpoints on what it will take to achieve peace and what is needed to rectify the injustices committed against them by the other side. This conflict has many unseen elements that make finding a solution immensely difficult.
Through this experience, the Norwich students expanded their global perspectives and cultural appreciation. Most importantly, they developed skills that will help them sort through floods of information and perspectives to form professional and culturally aware analyses, a skill that will be highly valuable in their futures as officers. Additionally, because of the diversity of the team across military services (one Marine Corps, two Air Force, six Army, and one newly commissioned Army Second Lieutenant), this study facilitated inter-branch cooperation.
There is no doubt that each student has changed as a result of this field study and it can confidently be said that each has gained tools that will make them a better leader and military officer.